I love local stuff. But it is expensive and often over indulgent. For example: Coffee. I love it so much. It’s how you know that a place is being gentrified and thrives on an upper middle class economy. Just look for the fancy beer bars and coffee. People tout this local stuff and everyone who is a millennial and can afford it, buys it.But I’m getting a little tired of it. It feels built on a lie. I mean, buying local is good. Having passion is good. Wanting to create community centers around food and drink and artisan artists, I think is all good. But I don’t buy it.
Hey City, Urban Millennial, you’re cool, but you might be a little bit racist. Heck, I’m probably a little bit racist. But as far as I can tell, in my quickly gentrifying urban dwelling, the real community center in this neighborhood is Walmart. There I see hipster millennials, retired boomers, black, white, brown, rich, poor, clean, dirty, old, young, LGBT, and Hoodied Vigilantes alike. I don’t see that at the “Local” Farmer’s Market. I don’t see that at the Nano-Brewery. I don’t see that at the coffee shop. I don’t see that at the artisan bakery. I don’t see that at the gastropub. I see it at Walmart and Family Dollar. It feels wrong.
The average resident here doesn’t want, and will never buy your (my) artisan coffee. It may be helping a village in Africa, but it is not helping here. But to teach a neighbor how to roast, or sell, or latte, or something. Maybe the passion can be created.
There is an obvious black and white cultural divide, or almost synonymously, a richer and poorer divide. The white people are at one business, and brown right across the street at a classically terrifying local corner store bodega. Consciously or unconsciously, those touting the local label around here really mean white, upper middle class suburbanites looking for something quaint and unique outside the suburbs.
I don’t really know, right? Maybe these business are employing (or have intentions to employ) refugees and people with a past of incarceration. Maybe they are giving back to the community with silent humility. Perhaps they are helping train people who no one will train, and giving them a leg up in the community that really would rather spit them out. I don’t know, but umm, I don’t think so.
Until you’ve lived it, it is hard to see what the problem is with gentrification, but the most obvious answer is that it perpetuates segregation of class and race. It’s kind of scary to like the neighborhood, and be afraid that you won’t be able to afford to buy in it again. So, until these local businesses figure out how to reach the people in Walmart and the Craft Brewery, I don’t buy it.
When will Haley House and Thistle Farms and Homeboy Industries become the norm? Where local genuinely serves the rich, the poor, and the disenfranchised? But mostly poor. Local. Because most local people are poor.
Does anyone know of any examples in urban gentrifying communities where the poor serve and are being served? Like where that is the goal? It seems so hard to come by… Actually serving the community is an afterthought. Hence, why the public schools remain terrible… I guess that’s another rant.
Now, excuse me while I go buy and artisan donut.